9 religious companies (besides Chick-fil-A)
July 24th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

9 religious companies (besides Chick-fil-A)

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

As the controversy over Chick-fil-A’s founder publicly opposing same-sex marriage continues - Mike Huckabee is pushing for a Chick-fil-A day, while the Jim Henson Co. is cutting ties to the chain - we’re republishing our list of 10 other religious companies.

Our initial list was provoked by an earlier Chick-fil-A/same-sex marriage controversy. Is our list missing any names? Tweet us at @CNNBelief to let us know.

Here are 10 well-known companies that don't make religious products - we're not talking kosher foods manufacturer Manischewitz here - but that nonetheless take their religious sides seriously (listed in no particular order).

1. Forever 21. The young women’s clothing company may be best known for its skimpier and saucier offerings, but it also exudes subtle piety. The words John 3:16 – a citation of a biblical verse popular among evangelical Christians - appears at the bottom of its stores' shopping bags. A spokeswoman for the company told The New York Sun that the message is a "demonstration of the owners' faith."

2. Tom’s of Maine. After launching the natural home products company in 1970 with his wife Kate, CEO Tom Chappell nearly left it to pursue full-time Christian ministry. While receiving a master's at Harvard Divinity School, however, a professor advised him to just treat his business as ministry. “He began bringing in different spiritual leaders to talk to the board about how they could use spiritual principles to run the company,” says the Tyson Center's Neal. Beyond environmentalism, the company seeks to "create a better world by exchanging our faith, experience, and hope."

3. Tyson Foods, Inc. The world's largest chicken company employs a team of chaplains who minister to employees at production facilities and corporate offices. Other corporations contract out such services, but it’s rare for a company to keep chaplains on the payroll.

"The chaplains provide compassionate pastoral care and ministry to team members and their families," according to Tyson's website, "regardless of their religious or spiritual affiliation or beliefs."

Tyson recently gave money to launch the Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace at the University of Arkansas, one of the first academic centers of its kind.

4. Hobby Lobby. The privately held chain of more than 450 arts and crafts stories isn't shy about its Christian orientation. "Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles," reads the company's mission statement. "We believe that it is by God's grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured."

The company supports a slate of Christian interests, from Oral Roberts University to the conservative Alliance Defense Fund, and is known for taking out overtly religious newspaper ads around the holidays.

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5. ServiceMaster. Never heard of this corporation? Perhaps some of the residential services companies it owns, like Terminix and American Home Shield, will ring a bell.

The company was founded in 1929 by Marion E. Wade, who "had a strong personal faith and a desire to honor God in all he did," according to ServiceMaster's website. "Translating this into the marketplace, he viewed each individual employee and customer as being made in God's image - worthy of dignity and respect."

The company, formerly public but recently taken over by a private equity firm, still consciously tries to "do the right thing in the way that employees treat customers," says Theodore Malloch, who leads Yale University's Spiritual Capital Initiative. "It's a theological statement about servant leadership - think of the picture of Christ washing the feet of his disciples."

6. Herman Miller. The Michigan-based furniture manufacturer's founders were steeped in the Reformed Protestant tradition. "It retains a lot of that in practices that revolve around a notion of respecting the dignity of the human person and a strong environmental ethic that grew out of the religious responsibility," says Yale's Malloch. Indeed, Herman Miller - perhaps most famous for its Aeron chair - prides itself on environmental philanthropy and on regularly appearing on Fortune's annual list of best companies to work for.

7. Interstate Batteries. The car battery giant has a "self-avowed religious identity and is very open in their God talk" in internal training and communication, says Lake Lambert III, author of Spirituality, Inc. Former company president Norm Miller moved to the role of chairman to allow more time to address Christian audiences. Miller talks to those "interested in how he found the truth of Christianity," the company's website says, "and how he learned to effectively apply biblical principles to create a more successful business." Interstate employs its own chaplain.

8. In-N-Out Burger. Chick-fil-A is hardly the only fast-food outfit to make its founders' religious leanings part of its recipe. Western U.S. burger chain In-N-Out has printed citations of Bible passages on cups, wrappers and other pieces of packaging since at least the late 1980s. For instance, "John 3:16" appears on the bottom of soft drink cups, a reference to the Bible passage, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Read more on In-N-Out's religious side at Eatocracy, CNN's food blog.

9. Walmart. Treat this one as an honorable mention. Lambert says the Walton family, which founded the company and still own a major stake in it, has used Christian servant leadership models in building the world's largest retailer. And the company's Arkansas roots helped sensitize it to the shopping habits of churchgoers. It helps explain why Walmart long carries the kind of Christian books that were once the exclusive province of Christian bookstores. "You don’t find those kinds of things in J.C. Penney," Lambert says. But Walmart has been so successful with such material that it's now become a business threat to Christian booksellers.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey is a Buddhist. Whole Foods Global Public Relations Director Kate Lowery says that Mackey has never been a Buddhist. “John does not fit into any traditional religious category,” she said in an e-mail message.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Missionaries

soundoff (2,481 Responses)
  1. derp

    This is awesome. The only store my wife and I shop at is Whole Foods. I don't even have to cross anything off my list. The jesustards can go shop at the other places, and I will not even have to interact with them at all.


    July 24, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  2. Doc Vestibule

    Most of the The Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits in my city hand out Ramadan calendars this time of year.
    To me, that means I can get my tasty, halal chicken delivered super fast if I order before sundown!

    July 24, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  3. just sayin

    Thank you CNN, now I know which Christians Fundi ones not to support anf give my money to. They are free to use their business as a church and I am free not to give my money to support the delusional clowns.

    July 24, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      I think it's great that the only place I frequent on the list (Whole Foods) isn't actually one of the Christian stores and reflects my atheist world view without me even knowing it was Buddhist. The rest I have avoided due to their high fat, high salt, imported cheap goods way of doing business, which mirror's most Christians I know as well...

      July 24, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • derp

      Yup, fat dumb and un-American. The christian way!!!

      July 24, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
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    July 24, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
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      July 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  5. Todd

    Betty - this country was founded on the FREEDOM to practice religion. Yes, it was Christianity... but so was the European religion they fought to leave. FREEDOM to practice is what we fought for - not the specifics of the religion. Chic is within their rights. And I hope they, like you, realize that unconditional love, Christian love, is the requirement of a Christ follower.

    July 24, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Todd, so much for your knowledge of satan's lies. Our founding fathers left England because of being over taxed. When they settled this country, mother England wanted her share of taxes, hence, the Boston Tea Party.

      July 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  6. Todd

    Religion is a very useful way to give employees real benefits that are not monetary. Having a purpose is very important - especially to the younger generation (I interview many of them).

    The exclusion of our gay brothers and sisters... and we have all known and been served, helped and taught by many... is not a value we should be passing on. They are within their rights and I hope to see their decisions cause them financial harm. Perhaps that will be enough for them to reassess - not their beliefs - but their actions.

    July 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      What REAL benefit do you get from religion...do I have to claim it on my taxes?

      July 24, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Todd, gay folks like any sinner has their cross to carry. It's getting to know Jesus' spiritual truth that will set the sinner free of carnal lies.

      July 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • just sayin

      HS you worship a false christ and false god. Enjoy your delusion.

      July 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  7. child of midian

    If any company I worked for began inserting religion into the philosophy I would have to leave. I am not allowed to go about "spreading atheism" so they can't put god on me. It really nags me when companies take political / religious leanings. As the owner of chik-f-la just learned, it's bad for business and off-putting to most customers.

    July 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  8. Betty

    This country was founded on Christanity our forefathers left their country and come here for this very reason . I applaud
    Chick-fil A for their statement. We should consider them a hero . I will be @ an outlet on August 1 to support them. This world would be in a much better place to live in today if we only used the Ten Comandments as a guide line.

    July 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • michael

      We are not under the 10 commandment law. It was given to a certain people, time & place, now becaus of the good moral aspests of those 10 we will read about 9 of them in the New Testament. The one we do not read about is "remember the sabbath". let me know if you have any questions. mikason007@yahoo.com

      July 24, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • sam

      Betty...no. Just no. All you appear to know about the founding of this country came from your pastor or some other dingbat in your social circle. You're what we fear most: ignorant, spouting whatever you've been told. And I highly doubt you need to be eating the fast food (try a few more veggies). You're already drinking the kool-aid.

      ps: read a book.

      July 24, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  9. Sarah

    I think it is incredibly ironic that Forever 21 lays claim to Christianity, when they create clothing for sizes that a real woman could never fit into. This only leaves the assumption that they specialize in dressing teenagers, that end up looking like street walkers. I'd expect them to lay claim to Catholicism except that they don't sell boys clothing.

    July 23, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Alice

      They do specialize in Misses–clothing for "teenagers." They also have normal sizes that every normal store contains. Your post is beyond ridiculous, what does this have to do with Christianity?

      July 24, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  10. Kerry McCullough

    I am proud that we still have people with enough courage to stand up for God and what he teaches in the Bible!

    July 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Dani3l

      Please understand that a great many people who strive for civil rights, even for lesbians and gays, do so because they believe that is called for by the teachings of Jesus. Christianity is not unanimous in its opposition to tolerance and social justice. Quite the opposite. Stop and think about that, who your neighbor really is, and consider that others you may disagree with are also motivated by sincere faith.

      July 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • derp

      "I am proud that we still have people with enough courage to stand up for God and what he teaches in the Bible!"

      I am so glad that you support me in my quest for a biblical marriage.

      I was planning to marry my sister, them marry my other sister too, have relations with both of them, sell them, and then stone them to death.

      It's nice to see that someone is willing to stand up for marriage as set forth in the bible.

      Thanks Kerry!

      July 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
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    July 21, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  13. hannahAr

    Thanks for the list. Now , I will definitely give them MORE of my business.

    July 20, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Oy

      Why? To fund them forcing religion on other people?

      July 24, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  14. Fedup

    Wal -mart is not Christian, they practice slavery in the way they treat their employees.

    July 20, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • Braying

      When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property. (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)

      July 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Nikki

      READ YOUR BIBLE... Slavery is DEFINITELY condoned in there. They even tell you how to BEAT your slaves! Wal-Mart is VERY Christian.

      July 24, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • just sayin

      Your Christ and God is all about slavery..funny person you are

      July 24, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Does anyone ever read Philemon anymore?

      July 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  15. Jared

    I think it is funny that Tyson is on this list. They treat their employees very badly in Arkansas.

    July 20, 2012 at 4:06 am |
  16. elephant punk

    Too bad Toms sold out to Colgate.....

    July 19, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  17. Luca

    Whole Foods shouldn't be on this list. Buddhism is not a religon. Only in the West do we state Buddhism as a religon.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Unegen

      Buddhism is indeed a religion. You dismiss millions of Buddhists by claiming otherwise. Buddhism has a religion's depiction of an afterlife, tenets for its followers to live by, holy people who dedicate their lives to these tenets, and centers of worship. Sounds like a religion to me.

      July 19, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Stanley S

      Buddhism is a religion. However, it's not fair to say it's a religion like christianity. After all, Buddhism isn't exactly responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths while simultaneously claiming the have the moral high ground. I've never even heard of anyone that was Buddhist running around torturing and murdering people because they weren't Buddhist as well.

      I laugh every time I hear some ignorant christian beating their chest about how morality is derived from their insulting, hateful, intolerant, and demeaning mythology whose dogma preaches my death.

      July 19, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Aryke

      Luca is correct. I practice Buddhism and it is not a religion, it is a philosophy. It is not disrespectful to say it is not a religion. Buddhism is not a system of faith owing any allegiance to any particular supernatural being. Therefore, unlike other religions, it can be practiced alongside another religion without conflict.

      July 19, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • Rita

      Stanley S – you've never been to Sri Lanka have you? or are the Tamils 100% to blame in your view?

      July 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • macian99

      Big difference: Buddhism offers its adherents something useful in this life. Buddhism encourages the development of mental clarity as well as ethical interaction with all other creatures. That's ALL other creatures, not just though who believe what they believe. Other religions offer dogma and a 'reward in the next life' for believers; 'eternal torment' for non-believers. All things being equal, something of value in this life is preferable to the comfort of wrapping one's self in a nice, warm delusion.

      July 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  18. Beverly

    I can never understand how so many people can voice their opionions on an issue but they seem to forget this is America and if they owned a multi-million dollar company, they as an American, can state their own beliefs and if you don't agree go somewhere else to get your sandwich, they are a dime a dozen.

    I would be very proud to work for an employer who, in these times of I have the right to say and do whatever I want, stands up for his values and is not afraid to say the truth, very refreshing!!

    July 19, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Cammy

      I think part of the reason they voice their opinions is so people can choose not to go to those stores. I for one would gladly go to Whole Foods now that I know it has Buddhist beliefs, but I will not go to Chick-fil-a now that I know it supports anti-gay groups. To me that's not morals, that's hate. I'm fine with people expressing their values, but I need this information to express mine by not shopping with them as well.

      July 19, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Unegen

      Yes, this is America. Everyone is free to express their views.
      But do you think it should be fair to use profits–from customers who do not share your views–to buy legislation that will harm your customers? That is not expression. That is hate.

      July 19, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • AggieBill

      Where can I find those "dime-a-dozen" sandwiches, and does the shop's owner hate gays and lesbians?

      July 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
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    July 19, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  20. Rich

    Wallmart is so great their employees are the biggest food stamp users in the country....they should be proud.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Erick

      Rich – cite your source for your outrageous claim about Walmart employees.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • empathetic

      Aww, what's wrong Rich? Did they short you on stamps this month?

      July 20, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.